Vegas newspaper staffers reject claims that Wynn story was a hit piece

To Las Vegas insiders, it was an immediate source of palace intrigue: another damaging headline for Steve Wynn in a n...

Posted: Feb 7, 2018 8:10 AM
Updated: Feb 7, 2018 8:10 AM

To Las Vegas insiders, it was an immediate source of palace intrigue: another damaging headline for Steve Wynn in a newspaper owned by an on-again-off-again rival, fellow billionaire casino magnate, Sheldon Adelson.

But to the journalists of the Las Vegas Review-Journal -- a proud staff that weathered Adelson's tumultuous takeover of the paper a little more than two years ago -- the mere suggestion that the story was a hit piece commissioned by Adelson is "deeply offensive."

That's how Review-Journal managing editor Glenn Cook described it when he was asked about the speculation regarding the paper's incredible move on Monday -- admitting that it spiked a story 20 years ago detailing sexual misconduct allegations against Wynn, but was now publishing some details of the allegations. The report included previously undisclosed court records and interviews alleging that, thirty years ago, Wynn pressured a waitress at one of his casinos into sex. The new revelation comes as Wynn is fighting similar allegations first revealed last month in an investigation by the Wall Street Journal.

Adelson had no advance warning of the story, Cook insisted.

"He knew this story was coming when it landed on his driveway this morning," Cook said. "There's no communication with ownership on this story. One of the things that frustrates me about any assertion that we did this story because of some interest in our owner."

A representative for Adelson echoed this, telling CNNMoney on Monday that "Mr. Adelson had nothing to do with the story, was unaware it was being published and hasn't read it."

On the Review-Journal's front page Monday, the story revealed that, in 1998, the paper killed a story by Carri Geer Thevenot on sexual harassment allegations against Wynn from his employees.

Geer Thevenot, who is now the paper's metro editor, saved her notes and records of the story. When the WSJ published its investigation into allegations against Wynn last month, Geer Thevenot said she immediately thought of the file, which she had intermittently come across over the years.

Geer Thevenot said she doesn't know why she didn't think of her own reporting prior to the Journal's story even as other publications were publishing explosive allegations against other powerful men in media, Hollywood and the business world. She also said she's not sure why the paper decided not to run the original piece in 1998, since it often published allegations from court cases, such as those in the killed story about Wynn. But she said that in this case, at the time, she had been told unequivocally to delete the story.

"I always believed it was fear of litigation," Geer Thevenot told CNNMoney in an interview on Monday.

Geer Thevenot said she has never spoken directly with Adelson.

"I'm sorry that they are drawing that conclusion," she said in reference to the speculation swirling around Monday's story. "It never crossed my mind. Anyone who was in the newsroom that morning can say I read the Wall Street Journal story, remembered I had the file and brought it up to the editor in chief."

It was a remarkable piece of journalistic self-accounting, a recognition by the paper it had insight on Wynn long before the Journal.

Sheldon Adelson bought the Review-Journal in 2015 in a highly secretive transaction that distressed the newsroom. The reporters there eventually dug in, and uncovered that Adelson had taken over as the new owner.

The three reporters on the story of Adelson's ownership of the paper all eventually left, part of an exodus that included several other reporters and editors who cited what they believed was a lack of editorial freedom under their new owner. News reports citing those in the newsroom at the time said stories involving Adelson, who is a power broker in the Las Vegas gaming industry and a top GOP donor, were being "reviewed, changed or killed almost daily."

When the Review-Journal story on Wynn surfaced Monday, some reporters who covered the gaming business in Vegas wondered openly whether Adelson had exerted editorial control over the paper in order to damage his rival.

Wynn and Adelson have had a tumultuous relationship over the last 20 years. Two billionaire casino magnates, their careers have long intersected: Wynn opened the Bellagio in 1998, Adelson opened the Venetian the following year. And while their business interests have at times clashed, two former Review-Journal staffers who have long covered Vegas politics and business say the two moguls have bonded over a mutual support for conservative causes and the Republican Party.

Jon Ralston, a longtime Nevada reporter who worked at the Review-Journal in the early 1990s and now runs his own site, The Nevada Independent, couldn't help but wonder if the on-and-off-again relationship between Adelson and Wynn had something to do with the story.

"The question is is this just principal journalism, or is there a fraying in the relationship," Ralston said.

But others see Adelson's fingerprints.

Steve Friess, a freelance journalist who covered the Vegas gaming industry for more than a decade and who worked at the Review-Journal for three years in the 1990s, told CNNMoney that he finds it hard to believe Adelson did not know the story was coming. Friess has interviewed the two casino moguls multiple times during his career, he said.

Friess said he thinks that "somebody talked to somebody talked to somebody."

Another former longtime staffer of the Review-Journal said that, while there is no "hotline into the newsroom," he thinks that Adelson could have killed Monday's story if he "wanted to do Wynn a favor."

For Adelson, the scandal around Wynn might ultimately spell the demise of one of his biggest competitors.

Wynn has denied the allegations levied against him, responding to the Wall Street Journal story by saying in part, "The idea that I ever assaulted any woman is preposterous." But the story has left Wynn's career and reputation in tatters. He resigned as finance chairman of the Republican National Committee, and shares of Wynn Resorts tumbled after the WSJ broke the news.

"The king is dying, and Adelson knows it," Friess said. "Once Steve Wynn is gone, Sheldon Adelson is the king. There's nobody singular like that in Vegas after him."

In a 2006 interview on Friess' former podcast, The Strip, Adelson didn't mince words.

"Do I like Steve Wynn? No," Adelson said. "I'll tell you that right up front. His standard of principles are somewhat different than our standard of principles."

Adelson added that he didn't approve of "the way [Wynn] practices his business and life and interpersonal relationships."

Their relationship continued to fluctuate through the years, but Adelson's resentment toward Wynn likely goes deeper than their business dealings. Friess said he believes Adelson has long been bitter that Wynn received more credit for Las Vegas' revitalization. And the two have never been exactly simpatico.

"Sheldon and Steve have always had very different lifestyles," Friess said. "Sheldon is very religious, very serious about his Judaism. Steve always has been a flashy playboy, very much like Donald Trump."

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 26273

Reported Deaths: 1126
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin8867641
Ramsey3252140
Stearns205014
Nobles15625
Anoka148878
Dakota141464
Washington68034
Olmsted67211
Kandiyohi5111
Rice4833
Scott4602
Clay44129
Mower4062
Wright3392
Todd3361
Sherburne2482
Carver2322
Benton1823
Steele1670
Blue Earth1480
Freeborn1420
Martin1325
St. Louis11814
Pine930
Nicollet8811
Lyon811
Winona8015
Cottonwood790
Watonwan780
Crow Wing774
Unassigned7511
Carlton750
Otter Tail730
Goodhue715
Chisago641
Polk612
Itasca5610
Dodge530
Chippewa521
Morrison480
Le Sueur461
Meeker460
Douglas450
Becker430
Jackson420
Murray400
McLeod390
Isanti360
Waseca270
Pennington230
Rock230
Mille Lacs231
Faribault200
Swift190
Beltrami180
Wabasha180
Fillmore171
Sibley160
Brown162
Norman150
Pipestone120
Marshall120
Kanabec121
Wilkin113
Cass112
Aitkin110
Wadena100
Pope100
Koochiching90
Big Stone80
Redwood70
Renville70
Mahnomen61
Lincoln60
Yellow Medicine60
Grant40
Traverse40
Red Lake40
Lac qui Parle30
Clearwater30
Roseau30
Hubbard30
Houston20
Kittson10
Lake10
Stevens10

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 20767

Reported Deaths: 583
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk4541137
Woodbury283737
Black Hawk177548
Buena Vista9971
Linn97179
Dallas94025
Marshall91218
Wapello62814
Johnson6189
Muscatine56541
Crawford5472
Tama41029
Scott38010
Dubuque35521
Louisa34911
Pottawattamie31110
Sioux2980
Jasper26917
Wright2120
Washington1958
Warren1661
Plymouth1462
Story1261
Allamakee1204
Mahaska9912
Poweshiek928
Henry722
Bremer706
Boone700
Des Moines671
Clarke660
Clinton651
Taylor640
Webster621
Hamilton610
Guthrie543
Cedar491
Benton431
Monroe415
Shelby370
Cherokee370
Jones370
Jefferson350
Marion350
Osceola340
Clayton343
Cerro Gordo331
Iowa330
Dickinson330
Buchanan330
Madison292
Lee290
Fayette280
Sac280
Davis280
Harrison260
Monona250
Clay250
Lyon240
Winneshiek240
Emmet240
Lucas222
Hardin210
Grundy200
Mills200
Delaware191
Humboldt191
Floyd191
Franklin170
Appanoose173
Hancock160
Butler161
Ida150
Greene150
Pocahontas150
Page140
Kossuth140
Keokuk140
Audubon131
Jackson130
Carroll130
Chickasaw130
Howard120
Cass120
Winnebago110
Montgomery91
Adair90
Union90
Van Buren90
Adams70
Palo Alto70
Calhoun60
Ringgold40
Mitchell40
Fremont40
Worth30
Wayne10
Decatur10
Unassigned00
Rochester
Clear
69° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 69°
Mason City
Clear
71° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 71°
Albert Lea
Overcast
68° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 68°
Austin
Broken Clouds
72° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 72°
Charles City
Clear
68° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 68°
Another round of severe weather tonight
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

Pandemic food benefits available to families

Image

Sean Weather 6/5

Image

Covid-19 Cases on the Rise

Image

Becoming a better ally

Image

Giving your best

Image

Coronavirus attacking your blood vessels?

Image

Young Protester's impact on police reform

Image

How important are school resource officers?

Image

Graffiti on Rochester trail

Image

Expedited breast cancer treatment

Community Events